California can lay claim to many important contributions to American culture: Hollywood blockbusters, energy conservation, Disneyland, property tax revolts, and the Kardashians.
Perhaps the contribution that’s had the biggest effect on modern society, however, is the popularity of the avocado.
Avocados were first harvested and eaten centuries ago in Central America. During the 20th century they became an important crop in California and were primarily a local favorite, readily available in only a few states. But Californians’ increasing love for avocado in sandwiches, in salads, on toast – and of course, in guacamole – spread across the country in the early 21st century. The avocado craze has now reached the point where Americans consume nearly 200 million pounds of the fruit, just on Super Bowl Sunday each year.
There has been a corresponding increase in interest in a somewhat-related product as well: avocado honey.
The ironic part of this story, however, is that avocado honey doesn’t taste like avocados.
A Closer Look at Avocado Honey
Avocado honey does indeed come from the nectar of avocado trees, but it’s not unusual that a honey doesn’t taste like the tree’s fruit. Only a few honey varieties, such as orange blossom honey, have a flavor similar to its namesake source.
It’s not difficult to locate avocado honey at farmer’s markets in Southern California or Mexico, when avocados are in season. It’s even available occasionally at Trader Joe’s stores in the region. But it can be quite difficult to find avocado bloom honey elsewhere in the country because only a small amount of this honey is produced, despite the fact that there are thousands of white flowers on each tree. The reason is surprising: honey bees don’t really like the taste of avocado nectar. (1)
An Israeli study has found that young bees usually don’t discriminate among blossoms when they’re out doing their work. However, mature bees do, and they vastly prefer the taste of wildflower, macadamia and orange blossoms over the taste of avocado blossoms, which mature at virtually the same time in May and June and grow in the same geographical areas. There’s a theory as to why this happens. Avocado nectar is rich in phosphorus and magnesium, which each repel bees; the same effect is found with onion flowers, whose nectar is high in potassium.
In any event, it’s easy to figure out what happens. Beekeepers aiming to collect and sell monofloral avocado honey (that is, honey that comes from a single source) find that there’s a lot more macadamia and citrus honey in their honeycombs instead.
That’s quite a beekeeping challenge; even when hives are placed in the middle of avocado groves, mature honey bees are likely to “wander off” and collect orange blossom honey. As a result, monofloral avocado honey is relatively rare.
It’s worth checking out, though.
The Qualities of Avocado Honey
Pure avocado blossom honey usually has an attractive dark amber hue in keeping with its thick, creamy consistency. It has a very high sucrose content and very little fructose, but unlike other high-sucrose honeys, the avocado varietal does not crystallize quickly. That may be due to the presence of another sugar, persitol, which is not found in any other type of honey. Avocado honey has a subtle and pleasant, aromatic aroma.
This honey has a robust and buttery flavor and texture, somewhat similar to molasses or cane syrup (as you might expect from a dark honey) without the bitterness. It has a medium sweetness, which can turn into a delicious bittersweet aftertaste depending on the honey’s source and purity. Some people claim they notice hints of chocolate or avocado in the flavor, although the latter may just be a product of the tasters’ imaginations. For those looking to compare honey tastes between rich, dark varietals, avocado is sweeter and less bitter than buckwheat honey and manuka honey, and more buttery than either one.
You can use avocado honey in a variety of ways in the kitchen. This molasses-tasting honey is an excellent spread that pairs quite well with hearty freshly-baked breads, it’s great when used in baking (although it may produce darker-than-usual baked goods), and it contributes depth when mixed into to salad dressings, marinades and meat glazes, and thick sauces. Avocado honey can also be used to make smoothies, beer and mead, and it will give tea a unique kick when used as a sweetener instead of sugar.
Nutritionally speaking, avocado honey is high in carbs and calories so it shouldn’t be used in any diet to excess, even though it’s a healthier choice than sugar. It is richer in mineral content than almost any other variety of honey, so the high amounts of minerals beneficial to the body are a definitely plus. One potential issue, though is that this honey is also high in phosphorus which can be a problem for those with kidney disease, if they consume a number of other foods that are rich in phosphorus as well.
Health Benefits of Avocado Honey
Aside from its high mineral content which may help prevent anemia, avocado honey provides most of the same benefits as any other honey varietal. It’s high in antioxidant polyphenols, effective in fighting the harmful effects of free radicals in the body, supporting the immune system, and (many believe) assisting in the treatment of chronic health conditions ranging from cardiovascular and neurological diseases, to issues in the digestive tract, diabetes and even cancer. It’s also higher in fiber than most honeys.
The antibacterial and antimicrobial properties of avocado honey make it a good choice for wound and burn treatment, and even as an ingredient in face masks used as part of a skin care regimen. Eating avocado honey can help prevent seasonal allergies in those living in areas where the trees grow, by building immunity to their pollen. And like most honeys, this variety is quite effective in suppressing coughs.
It’s important to note, though, that this is only true for raw avocado honey. The pollen and propolis that are contained in nectar are the keys to raw honey’s health benefits, and those ingredients are removed from honey that is ultra-filtered and pasteurized before being shipped to grocery stores. The good news is that because of avocado honey’s somewhat-rare status, you’re more likely to find it sold as unheated, unfiltered honey than as a heavily processed product.